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After Hours: Valerie Madon Cheng’s Licktionary

The long hours associated with the ad world leave many with very little time to pursue passions. Our industry is known for its cut-throat nature and the ability to burn people out within years of joining the work force. But as Oprah Winfrey once said, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

In this new series titled “After Hours”, Marketing speaks to those who have managed to follow through on their passions and integrate it into their working worlds.

Kicking off our “After Hours” series is Valerie Madon Cheng, chief creative officer, Havas Singapore, who shares her experience of setting up an ice cream shop named Licktionary.

The journey began two years ago, when her husband Farrokh Madon, chief creative partner at J. Walter Thompson, was considering various routes they could pursue, as they grew older and begin planning for their retirement. After bouncing ideas off each other, they finally settled on the idea of ice cream – marking their first foray into the food and beverage industry.

The idea of juggling Licktionary and a full-time job was a concern for both Madon Cheng and her husband when they first started out, she said. However, coming in to the shop thrice a week after their day jobs eventually became a breath of fresh air.

“My husband and I come to Licktionary thrice a week, after our day jobs in the advertising industry, to check up on the store,” she said. During the first few months of operation, Madon Cheng said that her weekends were set aside to build up Licktionary, which she describes as her “baby”. The duo wanted to ensure that the shop operations were running smoothly and brainstormed for new product ideas.

Check out the interview below:

“It makes us appreciate the fact that we are blessed enough to be able to juggle both sides of our passion. It also gives us more energy and inspiration to go back to work the next day, feel more in touch with consumers and be more sensitive to their needs,” Madon Cheng said.

The inspiration behind “Licktionary”

While she could not remember how the word “Licktionary” came about, Madon Cheng said she and her husband bounced ideas off each other until something eventually clicked. “The name is not coincidental, it clearly describes what the concept is,” Madon Cheng said. Inspired by high-end Michelin dining, where chefs will interpret the idea of a word or a season through a plate of food, both Madon Cheng and her husband decided to apply a similar concept to ice cream.

Drawing from their years of experience in advertising, the duo knew very well there had to be a point of difference in their product. Hence, they aimed to sell unique flavours instead of the usual rum and raising, chocolate and strawberry.

“The concept of Licktonary revolves around depicting each single flavour with a word, such as ‘Happy’, ‘Luck’ and ‘Summer’. All the ingredients of the ice cream are combined to hopefully give customers a sense of the word in the form of a taste,” Madon Cheng said.

Logistical matters such as rental and the inventory of ingredients, as well as manpower, posed a challenge to the duo. Madon Cheng said, as with any industry, it is important to interview and select the right individuals for the job. As the food and beverage industry does not pay very well, new reasons were needed to motivate individuals to join Licktionary and feel part of the family.

Nonetheless, if you eventually overcome these challenges, they become new lessons learnt which can be applied to our day jobs, allowing us to be more sensitive towards and understanding of our clients’ businesses,” she said.

What’s next for Licktionary?

“To be honest, I don’t have a plan for the next two years,” Madon Cheng said, adding that when running a business, every day is a new day. As such, Madon Cheng and her husband have to keep evolving and thinking of new flavours or product offerings every week, to inspire consumers and make the experience more enjoyable for them.

After two months of operations, Madon Cheng said that regular customers began asking for new flavours and products. This eventually led them to realise that a new flavour will result in an influx of new customers.

“I guess it is really reflective of consumers today, especially the younger generation. It also shows how platforms such as Snapchat or Instagram have caused people to seek for new and trendy things all the time,” Madon Cheng said. She added that this is a learning point for them as business owners, and is something that is applicable to the advertising world.

Founding Licktionary has inspired Madon Cheng to encourage her family and friends to pursue their passions. She believes that any individual with the commitment and effort will be able to succeed. When you are still young and have the energy, you should seek to fulfil your passion and see what happens, Madon Cheng said. Even if nothing comes out of it, the journey will still be amazing and lessons will be learnt.

Do you have a unique passion you pursue after hours? Share with us at janicetan@marketing-interactive.com

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